U.S. Catholic has posted an article I’ve written on Catholic teaching on the universal destination of goods, titled “How Much Do You Really Own?” Here’s a snippet:
If you think folks scream “Stay out of my private life!” at the mention of Catholic teaching on abortion, contraception, or marriage, just wait until word gets out—and it hasn’t—that the church’s understanding of what it really means to own something is different than that of most Americans. And the church has something to say about what each of us morally can and can’t do with what we own.
Make no mistake, the universal destination of goods is an idea that pope after pope has insisted must have a place in our public life. John Paul II called it “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.”
Let’s be clear: the church supports our right to own private property. Pope Leo XIII argued in the Catholic Church’s first social encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) that this right is found in natural law. He said people need private property to live a decent life, a life of dignity. We have to provide for ourselves and our families, and to do this effectively, he said, we need to be able to own stuff, to possess things in a stable and permanent way. But Leo XIII went on to say that while it’s one thing to have a right to possess things, it is entirely another to think we have a right to do whatever we want with what we own.
But isn’t that what “owning something” means? It’s mine to do with whatever I want? Nope, says the pope.
Read the entire piece here.